See — I think the whole thing comes down to two completely contrasting stories: the one I heard in Fundamentalism and the one I’m hearing now.
Let’s say your (general “you”) soul is like a house.
In fundamentalism, at salvation, you invite Jesus into your house, and He offers to clean up here and there — paint a few walls, steam clean the carpets, fix the leaky toilet. When He’s done helping out, He sits in the formal dining room and waits for you to join Him. “Tick-tock, tick-tock,” the grandfather clock is the loudest thing in that room. You bring Him a couple of meals, and you both talk awkwardly about a devotional you just read. He’s very polite — excruciatingly so — and you just feel stiff. And you hate sitting in those creaky dining room chairs.
In the mean time, Satan is having a rousing party in the rumpus room. See — when Jesus came into your house/soul, He didn’t kick Satan out. He just moved Himself in. Satan’s still there, still tempting you, still making loud fun in the next room.
And at every moment of the day, you must choose: will you sit in the formal dining room talking politely with your Savior or will you go to the rave party in the basement with the Enemy? Sheer will is the only thing that stands between you and your eternal damnation. As your aging senses grow dim and your bones ache more, you are more likely to just stay put in that dining room while you self-righteously rant about those young whipper-snappers who are tempted to party.
And then you die and go to that Great Formal Dining Room in the sky. Your conscience (like your bones) actually grows weaker with maturity. There’s little “progressive” about it.
But that’s not what I’m hearing in my new life. If your soul is a house, this is the way the story goes here:
Before salvation, Satan is your soul’s slumlord. He is a tyrant, and you’re miserable, but you really don’t know any different. Jesus bursts in — He breaks the door down even — and kicks him to the curb. He completely renovates your home — an Extreme Makeover (Soul Edition). He knocks out walls. He yanks up moldy carpet and puts in hardwood. He burns the lice-infested bedding. He fills your fridge. Everything is new again.
Now, Satan does still hang around and peer into your windows. And when you sin — and you will — it’s because you’re acting like Satan is still your slumlord. Progressively, you see Whose you are. And you grow more and more comfortable in your transformed digs. It feels more and more like home. You actually get stronger and you discover that you actually dance more.
If that doesn’t work for you, let’s try this one. Let’s say salvation is like a meal.
In fundamentalism, you sit down to eat. Prior to salvation, you only had one thing on the menu — a McDonald’s Value Meal. But at salvation, you invite Jesus to the pot luck, and He doubles the menu choices. So at every meal, Satan sits at one end of the table and Jesus at the other. Satan has his usual meal to offer you — McDonald’s Double-Quarter Pounder with Cheese, large fries, and a chocolate shake. Jesus brought a very healthy but unpalatable glass of kale juice with two raw eggs and soft tofu. Which are you going to choose? You’ve grown up on a diet of McD’s, but you know the Other is better for you. You must choose! At every meal!! Are you going to eat the right thing or damn your soul’s arteries to Hell? Eventually when you lose your teeth and taste buds, you find the kale smoothie actually easier to eat, and so you assume you’ve arrived in your weakened state and you shake your pious head at those who still steal the devil fries.
Outside fundamentalism, however, there’s still a meal, but it’s vastly different. I found this in Bob George’s Classic Christianity, by the way, which first startled me with the difference years ago. Before salvation, Jesus finds us dumpster diving. We’re accustomed to only the shadows of good food — the twisted and rotting perversion of the ideal meal. Jesus drags us out of the dumpster, kicking and screaming. We like our good ol’ prolific garbage source! He cleans us up, dresses us, and sits us down in front of a feast. A feast! Think Babette! And you’re a little timid at first. “What exactly is this that I’m eating?”
Sure — sometimes Jesus find us licking out sin’s compost bucket. We have a taste for garbage! And Jesus yanks us out again, wipes our mouth, and helps us back to the feast. Gradually we learn how to enjoy the complex flavors in His cuisine. We also learn that we need the nurture that the food gives us.
And really? It’s all an just appetizer for our upcoming Marriage Supper.